Eyes on You: Experts Reveal Police Hacking Methods

Law enforcement agencies across the globe are taking a page out of the hacker's handbook, using targets' own phones and computers to spy on them with methods traditionally associated with cybercriminals, two computer security groups said Tuesday.

Drawing on a cache of leaked documents and months of forensic work, two reports about the private Italian firm Hacking Team expose a global network of malicious software implants operated by police and spy agencies in dozens of countries.

"This in many ways is the police surveillance of the now and the future," said Morgan Marquis-Boire, a security researcher with Citizen Lab and a lead author of one of the reports. "What we need to actually decide how we're comfortable with it being used and under what circumstances."

Citizen Lab's work, paired with a report published simultaneously by Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab, helps complete the picture of state-sanctioned surveillance sketched by Edward Snowden's sensational revelations about the National Security Agency and its international allies.

While many of Snowden's revelations dealt with the mass monitoring of communication as it flows across the globe, Hacking Team brags about more aggressive forms of monitoring that let authorities turn people's phones and laptops into eavesdropping tools.

Hacking Team's chief spokesman, Eric Rabe, dismissed the reports as consisting of a lot of old news. Hacking Team's ability to break into iPhones and BlackBerrys is "well known in the security industry," he said in an email.

"We believe the software we provide is essential for law enforcement and for the safety of all in an age when terrorists, drug dealers and sex traffickers and other criminals routinely use the Internet and mobile communications to carry out their crimes," he said.

Rabe invoked Hacking Team's customer policy, which says the company sells only to governments which it screens for human rights concerns. A company-established panel -- whose membership...

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